Washington More beneficiary choices, infrastructure investments and payments that reflect the costs to physicians of providing services are the major principles the doctor community will use as guideposts as lawmakers look to transition to a new Medicare delivery system. Thats what the American Medical Association and other organized medicine groups stated in an Oct. 15 letter to Congress.
The national and state medical and specialty societies identified the core elements they will support to move from the one-size-fits-all Medicare fee-for-service system to one offering an array of options to seniors and physicians. The organizations also reaffirmed their support for a repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula used to help compute Medicare doctor pay rates. Congress has prevented SGR cuts temporarily for the past decade, but physicians state the uncertainty created by the unstable pay system has hurt practices and prevented improvements in health care delivery.
Although the SGR must be eliminated, the doctor community recognizes that this is only one-half of the equation, stated the letter, signed by the AMA and 110 state and specialty societies. Therefore, the undersigned organizations have developed the attached principles and core elements that can form the basis for new federal policy on a transition from the SGR to a higher-performing Medicare program.
The letter details three driving principles, three core elements and seven additional components needed for physicians to support a Medicare reform plan. The main principles accentuate that physicians and patients must retain the flexibility required for their health care needs to be met. Payment updates under a new system also must reflect the true costs of providing care and reward physicians for adopting innovations that boost quality in ways that restrain costs.
The AMA has consistently urged Congress to eliminate the broken Medicare doctor payment formula so we can start to transition to new payment and delivery innovations that improve patient care, stated AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD. Today, we offer principles that should be the foundation of a new system that supports physicians in improving the delivery of care with payment options that benefit patients, physicians and the Medicare program.
Doctors have witnessed a typically annual or more frequent ritual in which the threat of double-digit Medicare pay cuts prompts a scramble by lawmakers to block them at the eleventh hour. A few times the cuts technically have taken effect, but Medicare officials have suspended claims processing until Congress patched the formula retroactively. Ending the cycle of SGR near-cuts has bipartisan support in Washington, but lawmakers have struggled to find the roughly $300 billion needed to pay for a permanent solution.
Most observers state Congress probably never will grant deep SGR cuts to go through, but practices can’t completely dismiss that chance.
An October survey of medical group administrators by MGMA-ACMPE, the entity formed by the merger of the Medical Group Management Assn. and the American College of Medical Practice Executives, concludes that the SGR and temporary pay patches have modified practice business decisions. For instance, 60% of respondents reported delaying the buy of clinical equipment and/or reducing staff salaries or benefits. Roughly one in four practices stated they have delayed the buy of electronic health record systems.
If Congress does not stop the roughly 27% rate cut set for Jan. 1, 2013, 76% of practices state they will reduce staff benefits and 65% will eliminate administrative staff positions, according to the survey. Nearly 60% stated they would reduce clinical staff. Most practices would stop accepting new Medicare patients or seriously think about limiting access.
The survey shows doctor practices are ready to move beyond fee for service to an approach that rewards high quality of care, stated Susan Turney, MD, MGMA-ACMPE president and CEO. Now Congress must do its part, repeal the SGR, and provide stability in Medicare payments so physicians can explore and test new patient-centered approaches.
The organized medicine letter to Congress is designed to assure lawmakers that when they repeal the SGR, the doctor community is committed to embracing new payment methodologies and working to find savings in Medicare. Physicians in all specialties have shown the capability to lead new care delivery models, but the programs pay system has not followed through with innovation support, some of the signatories said.
Primary care physicians, for instance, have turned their practices into patient-centered medical homes that coordinate beneficiary care, better manage chronic conditions and prevent disease, stated Ray Quintero, director of government relations at the American Osteopathic Assn. The new pay system should include a variety of care model options, such as the medical home concept, that physicians can think about as possible good fits for their practices, he said.
They have our support as long as the policy matches the principles we have set, Quintero said.
One payment model wont fit every practice, so its important that the next system include a variety of ways to deliver patient care, stated Jerry Kennett, MD, chair of the American College of Cardiologys advocacy steering committee. Cardiologists have been participating in bundled payment and accountable care organization initiatives, both of which reward physicians who provide higher-quality care instead of simply more volume. They also have used EHR functions that ensure tests ordered for patients are appropriate.
From the cardiology perspective, we have proven tools that work, Dr. Kennett said.
Continuing the status quo no longer is an option for doctors, stated Robert W. Charlie Monteiro, MD, an internist in New Bern, N.C., and president of the North Carolina Medical Society. Physicians are ready to move forward, but for the past decade lawmakers have put off Medicare reform.
They must face up to it, but theyre not alone, Dr. Monteiro said. We have to be part of the solution. And were saying, Lets fix it. We need to fix it.?
Eliminating the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula is only part of the solution to overhauling the system, organized medicine groups wrote in a letter to congressional lawmakers.
Successful delivery reform is an essential foundation for transitioning to a high-performing Medicare program that provides patient choice and meets the health care needs of a diverse patient population.The Medicare program must invest and support doctor infrastructure that provides the platform for delivery and payment reform.Medicare payment updates should reflect costs of providing services as well as efforts and progress on quality improvements and managing costs.
Copyright 2012 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
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Submited at Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 at 12:15 am on Uncategorized by Gillan
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